Roy Brown – Musician and Activist
The music of talented Puerto Rican, Roy Brown, was significantly influenced by the social movements of the 1970s and went on to become representative of his beloved country’s independence of spirit. Drawing on the rich poetry and folklore of Puerto Rico, Roy Brown’s songs have universal appeal as the lyrics speak of a longing for social justice, a call for an end to war, the desire for a healthy environment and the need for mutual respect.
Roy Brown Ramirez was born in Orlando, Florida, on 18 July 1945. His father was an American naval officer and his mother was Puerto Rican. Brown was raised in the United States during turbulent times when controversial issues such as racism and the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the Vietnam War, were hotly debated. Many of these history-making events influenced his ideals and way of thinking.
In the late 1960s, Roy Brown enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico and became actively involved in groups that protested against the Vietnam War and poor living conditions, while promoting the independence movement of Puerto Rico. It was during this tumultuous time that Brown discovered his talent for writing soul-searching poetry. At that time he also recorded two albums – “Yo Protesto” (I protest) and “Basta Ya, Revolucion”, followed soon after by “Roy Brown III”, “Profecia de Urayoan: and “Distancias”.
Due to his strong political beliefs, Brown’s personal life started to suffer and he had a run-in with police, resulting in his dismissal from the university. In the late 1970s, Brown moved to New York and, along with fellow musicians Zoraida Santiago, Pablo Nieves, Carl Royce and Rucco Gandia, he formed a group called “Aires Bucaneros”. The group recorded a number of albums and performed in many countries, including Greece, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, the Netherlands and Nicaragua.
Roy Brown returned to Puerto Rico in 1988 and performed at a sold-out concert at the University of Puerto Rico. This was confirmation of how his popularity had grown since the 1970s, when his concert at the same venue drew a total of thirteen people. He went on to release a number of albums in the 1990s and he performed alongside Silvio Rodriguez at a concert at San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium, in front of an audience of more than 19,000 people.
A 2006 collaboration between Roy Brown and Tito Auger, frontman for Puerto Rican rock group Fiel A La Vega, and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger from The Mammals, resulted in an album titled “Que Vaya Bien”. A misunderstanding regarding the lyrics of a song from the album, “El Banquete de Los Sanchez”, caused the song to be censored by some Puerto Rican radio stations. Awareness raised by the public outcry at the attempted censorship resulted in extended radio play as well as excellent record sales.
Roy Brown married Emily Viqueira, a Puerto Rican former tennis player, and now lives in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where, much to the delight of his fans, he continues to do what he loves best – make memorable music.